At the recently concluded U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., mayors saluted the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance cooperative procurement organization in the form of a resolution. The resolution honors U.S. Communities for earning the much-coveted NAC certification from NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP).
 
The proclamation honors the U.S. Communities organization, noting the many prestige groups that were founding co-sponsors of the organization. The groups include: the United States Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the Association of School Business Officials and the National Governors Association.
 
The resolution explains: “U.S. Communities has successfully received the first-ever NAC (NIGP Accredited Cooperative) award, recognizing U.S. Communities’ commitment to truly professional cooperative purchasing practices, further distinguishing itself as the leader in cooperative purchasing.”
 
The resolution further states that not all purchasing cooperatives in the U.S. are equal. The resolution outlines key limitations found in some cooperative programs. The resolution states: “Some purchasing cooperatives have failed to be structured in a way that provides maximum transparency and have no independent oversight to deter violations of professional public procurement laws, standards and ethics.”
 
The resolution speaks of the recent creation of various cooperative procurement agencies that often vary in the ways and manners that they conduct business. The U.S. Conference of Mayor resolution states, there “continues to be a proliferation of purchasing cooperatives of varying models, ownership and levels of compliance with public procurement laws and regulations.”
 
The resolution concludes: “Therefore, be it resolved, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on elected officials at all levels of government to promote the use of NIGP Accredited Cooperatives as the first source when using cooperative purchasing.”
 
According to Brent Maas, Executive Director, Business Strategy and Relationships at the NIGP, the resolution provides an important endorsement: “The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ resolution encouraging elected officials at all levels of government to promote the use of NIGP Accredited Cooperatives (NACs) is the highest praise for the NAC program.”
 
Maas adds that the resolution speaks to the importance of cooperative procurement in the public sector. “That the U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes the NAC program as a critical differentiator for cooperative programs underscores the importance of cooperative practice to public agencies and that the cooperative programs they would utilize demonstrate alignment with the highest standard of professional practice,” Maas told GPN.
 
The proclamation was introduced through the U.S. Conference’s Metro Economies committee at the 85th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
 
“U.S. Communities strives to be a leader in cooperative purchasing and provide value to the public agencies we serve. Being the first cooperative program to meet the rigorous process and requirements of the NAC accreditation further supports our efforts,” says Kevin Juhring, Executive Director of U.S. Communities. “We applaud NIGP for creating an accreditation program that sets a standard for excellence. The NAC will help the procurement profession benchmark and distinguish cooperative options through specific criteria and standard best practices.”
 
NIGP’s cooperative accreditation is a voluntary process available to cooperative programs seeking to distinguish their organization and contracts as having met a rigorous standard that reflects their ongoing commitment and consistent approach to providing contracts established based on sound, professional procurement practices.
 
Achieving accreditation requires a successful assessment across three broad areas:
Cooperative Program Management
Contracting Agency Assessment
Procurement Processes
 
NIGP Accredited Cooperative accreditation is awarded for a three-year period.
 
The NAC Award is made by the NIGP Accredited Cooperative Award Panel after the review of all related assessment materials. The Award Panel is a volunteer body comprised of public procurement professionals who have signed a conflict-of-interest statement indicating that they have no advisory, contracting or other ties to cooperative programs that would extend beyond the use of one or more contracts available through a cooperative.
 
NIGP established the NIGP Accredited Cooperative program in 2015 to preserve the integrity of cooperative practice as a long-term, viable procurement option and to quickly identify those programs that can demonstrate the highest standard of practice in the cooperative marketplace.
 
No question, cooperative procurement is a growing factor in public sector purchasing. NIGP estimates that current spending through cooperative program contracts exceeds $40 billion. National cooperative programs frequently cite more than 40,000 public entities are registered with their programs. “The substantial growth in the number and purchasing volumes of cooperative programs in public sector suggests the value of third-party monitoring,” Maas says.
 
He adds that achieving NAC certification through the NIGP is a careful, methodical and highly selective process. “Because NAC assessment looks closely at the practices used when establishing and managing specific contracts, it can take three to five years to work through a contract cycle.  So pursuit and achievement of NAC, even if a program would like to pursue sooner, may not be doable. In part, we’ve not already had more programs go after NAC for this reason.” 
 
Maas adds that the standard of practice required by the NAC accreditation is not always achievable without implementing new or revised practices within a co-op. He says that NIGP hopes that many more cooperative programs pursue and achieve NAC accreditation in the future. 
 
NIGP hopes, ultimately, that having the NAC standard will provide a guide that co-op programs will align with, whether or not they ever formally pursue the accreditation, Maas tells GPN. “We do believe that we’ll see additional cooperatives achieve the NAC accreditation; however, in the short-run, it just won’t be en masse.
 
NIGP Accredited Cooperative criteria and a comprehensive NIGP Accreditation Guide providing all accreditation requirements are available for download at this site.
 
For additional NAC program information, e-mail NIGP at coopaccreditation@nigp.org. 

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